The clever people at Sugar Creatives are doing clever creative stuff with the web site – but that means I have to crack on with uploading grid points so they have something to work on. Usually I do them as I go along, but there are bits of alternative route that I haven’t looked at for years, and the aerial photos on the Ordnance Survey site look nothing like what I remembered. An excuse to get the boots out …
I meant to do this just with Nell, but Cara refused to stay in the house so we all set off together. The alternative higher-level route from Margam to Neath seems OK as far as Afan Argoed and over the ridge to Cwm Pelenna but I can’t make sense of some of my notes after that. We drove to Ton-mawr to walk up the valley of the Gwenffrwd. Strike one: the Ton-mawr Sport and Fitness Centre is no more. On the positive side, mountain biking in the Afan and Pelenna valleys has really taken off: the Gyfylchi Mountain Centre is refurbished, there’s the Afan Bike Park at Gyfylchi and new trails at Penhydd, and more places to stay (eg Bryn Bettws with a range of bunkhouses and cabins, https://brynbettws.com/).
So the track over Gyfylchi and down to Cwm Pelenna is clear and walkable. At SS 80968 96002 the line of the South Wales Mineral Railway emerges from the Gyfylchi Tunnel to your right.
At SS 80876 96091, cross the river by a railway bridge. Bear left with the line of the railway track (now a bridle path). At SS 80185 96261, cross the road, walk up the steps ahead of you and continue up through the houses to the main road through Ton-mawr.
At SS 80193 96372, cross the road, turn left and go up the steps to your right, just before the children’s playground.
At SS 80169 96418, turn left on a very minor road. After Blaenafon Farm (SS 80151 96757)
the road becomes a surfaced track. Across the valley to your left, the rush-filled ponds are part of the world-famous River Pelenna minewater treatment system.
At SS 79908 97905 the track passes above the ruins of a substantial farm.
From this point the track is not marked on the OS map as a right of way but it is waymarked as a byway.
At SS 80140 97561 you have to ford the Gwenffrwd, quite tricky even after a very dry October and potentially impassable in wet weather.
I remember struggling with this back in 2005. Nell liked it, though – you can just see her head peeping out of the water.
At SS 79656 98552 the main track bears to the left.After several gates, at SS 79428 98582 you pass through the earthworks of a massive Roman camp.
There are lovely views from here.
We turned back at the top of the ridge,
but you can walk on down the hill and through the grounds of the Gnoll, or turn right and follow the Cefn Ffordd, the great Glamorgan Ridgeway, along the watershed and down to the Rhondda. I remember walking that with a group of extra-mural students on a rather wet day back in the 1990s.